Five months after the merger of Odell and Pine Grove rural fire protection districts, the joined entities have a new name.
Wy'East Fire District came into being on Nov. 15. That's the date chosen by the merged district's board: president Eric Cedarstam, Chuck Weseman. Rod Hasty, Leonard Wood and Dan Sheppard.
Patrons of the 30-square-mile service area won't notice much change in service. The Odell and Pine Grove groups retain their status as departments within the Wy'East district, the two stations will continue to operate, and 9-1-1 dispatch will still tone out for the two departments. Also, the two volunteer organizations will remain separate, at least for now.
"Fire chiefs who have been through this tell us it usually takes one to five years for that to happen," Fire Chief Greg Borton said of volunteer groups merging.
But the two departments are officially a single district. Volunteers from either department can respond to calls at either facility, and starting next year, the departments will start training together, according to Greg Borton, who was chief of both departments and is the Wy'East fire chief. And soon, you'll see them in casual wear with the new Wy'East name and logo.
"There's a lot of history in both departments, and one of those things that was critical in the merger of the departments is the tradition and pride of the individual departments. That still stays intact," Borton said.
Borton said that since the merger, the district is running smoothly; adding that volunteers' ability to respond at either station gives the department greater flexibility for incident response and forming backup crews for neighboring districts. He plans in 2012 to hire a full time firefighter/EMT to assist in administration, including serving as training officer.
One change in tradition that is still in discussion, and not an area of universal agreement according to Borton, is the departments' differing signature colors: yellow for Odell's vehicles, red for Pine Grove's.
The district vehicles will remain unchanged other than some relabeling that will take place over time. Borton's chief's rig will be the first vehicle relabeled with the Wy'East image of mountain, hydrant and the universal fire image of the Maltese cross.